At a time when the Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy’s (CMIE’s) report claims an upward trend in employment in India’s labour market with 15 million people entering the workforce, senior economists have sought to expose the claim by stating that a fall in unemployment is not equal to a rise in employment.

Most of the new jobs are distress-driven, they noted. While the data shows that the average earnings of the entire workforce is going up, if we break it down into different categories, we see real earnings are going up only for casual work; in other categories the earnings are either stagnant or going down in real terms. Also, the percentage of employers, the job givers, is stagnating.

This was revealed at a two-day conference on Fnance and Economy: Measuring Recovery in Delhi, organised by the Centre for Financial Accountability, the Economic Research Foundation and the Focus on the Global South.

“The type of job that constitutes the highest share of the workforce is not just hugely precarious in its nature, but also the real earnings from the job have not seen any rise,” Mrinalini Jha of the OP Jindal Global University said.

“Now we have to challenge labour statistics as well! These have been twisted to show that there is no problem of female unemployment. Now we have begun counting the unpaid domestic work, but to what end, does it actually empower women? If we really care about their work, we must invest in infrastructure that supports them like childcare facilities, but our interest lies in just counting their work, and driving employment figures,” Dipa Sinha, Asst Professor, Ambedkar University, Delhi, said, alluding to the employment data of the government.

The conference discussed issues like official claims on recovery, unequal K-shaped recovery, corporate write-offs and rural debt crisis, labour, wages and social protection, Muslims and financial recovery.

“Govt’s exaggerated claims about India’s rapid growth are echoed even by the UN and IMF, relying on the government-provided data. But their data collection method is deeply flawed. New indicators are required based on fresh surveys. But no new survey of the unorganised sector has been conducted since 2015,” said black money expert and retired Professor of Economics, Jawaharlal Nehru University  Arun Kumar.

“There is a recognition on the part of the Reserve Bank of India in recent times of the global headwinds we are faced with. These include challenges of a daunting cost of living crisis, high levels of sovereign debt, tight financial conditions, uncertainties of war, climate crisis and so on. And yet, there is a rather celebratory note in the self-appraisal of the government in terms of India’s economic recovery,” he said, busting the claims of the government about economic recovery.

We have gone one step further from cronyism. Nexus between governments and conglomerates has been strengthened like never before

CP Chandrashekhar, retired Professor of Economics & Economic Research Foundation, spoke about a peculiar inflationary rise in India driven by two large contributors comprising oil and food that have added to the woes of the people. He also spoke of the large amount of money that came into lower middle-income countries, which ultimately has resulted in rising debt.

Senior journalist Paranjoy Guha Thakurta said, “We have gone one step further from cronyism. The nexus between governments and conglomerates has been strengthened like never before. We are moving towards oligarchy.”

Speaking on ‘Fractured Recovery – Socio- Economic toll of Divisive Politics’, speakers shed light on the impact of divisive politics on the lives and economic opportunities available for the Muslim community, focusing on how Muslims are ghettoized, not just in terms of their living spaces in cities but also as segments of the labour market.

The conference marked the release of the second edition of the State of Finance in India report. Edited by CP Chandrashekhar, Jayati Ghosh, Shalmali Guttal, Joe Athialy and Anirban Bhattacharya, and published by Yoda Press, the report, it was pointed out, is a first of its kind that expands the domain of finance and economics beyond the confines of ivory tower experts. The report invites writings from a cross section of academics, policy makers, activists, social practitioners and eminent economists who engage with questions from the ground.

Others who spoke at the conference included Surajit Mazumdar, Professor, CESP, JNU; Devidas Tuljapurkar, Joint Secretary of the All India Bank Employees Association; Thomas Franco, Former General Secretary the All India Bank Officers Confederation; Arvind Pandey, Asst Professor, TISS, Hyderabad; Praveen Jha, Professor, CESP, JNU; Chirashree Dasgupta, Associate Professor, JNU; Ritwick Dutta, Founder of LIFE; Manshi Asher, environmental justice activist; Nandini Nayak, Assistant Professor at the School of Development Studies, Ambedkar University Delhi; and Ghazala Jamil, Asst Professor JNU.

This article was originally published in Counter View and can be read here.

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